Picture this: one month you take a private cooking class with a professional cook located in Italy. A few weeks later, you might learn to make jambalaya from one of the top private chefs in New Orleans. Later in the year, traditional gyoza and okonomiyaki are part of the class you take with Chef Yoshimi in Japan.
Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting you invest your time and money into travelling around the world in the name of culinary know-how, but we have to confess, that does sound pretty fabulous. In fact, for these cooking classes no flight is required, but you can transport yourself directly into the kitchen of a renowned chef via Skype-based cooking classes courtesy of The Chef and The Dish.
Founded by Jenn Nicken, a former Apple and iTunes employee with an appetite for travel and authentic regional cuisines, she saw a business opportunity after tasting traditional Bolognese in Bologna, Italy, which didn’t taste all that much like the ‘Bolognese’ she grew up eating. Recognizing that not everyone can travel the world to taste food from where it hails, she began brainstorming ways to bring world cuisines into people’s home kitchens.
Her digital work experience taught her that technology is capable of bringing people together, and with that she launched The Chef and The Dish, an online culinary school that connect chefs with home cooks (and their friends!) for a private cooking class via Skype. Each class lasts 2 – 2 ½ hours and celebrates the culinary culture of the region selected, taught by professionally accredited chefs. This one-on-one time provides opportunities to ask an unlimited number of questions while cooking iconic dishes via a private video call.
How the class works is relatively simple: You book a cooking class via one of four ways, and are then paired with a chef, who will teach you up to three dishes that are specialties of the region they live in. Prior to the date of the class, a kitchen assistant will call via Skype to help you sort out the logistics (list of ingredients needed, kitchen equipment required, what to do if the Skype connection fails (good news: it’s unlikely to happen thanks to the state-of-the-art camera and computer equipment the company supplies to their chefs) and to answer any questions you may have. The price of the class is for two people so you can invite a friend, spouse, or child to join you, and add up to an additional two people if your space permits (there’s an additional fee for the extra students). In turn, they also provide the chefs with as much information as possible about your kitchen so they know what you’re working with before they begin the lesson.
The Chef and The Dish currently offers authentic cooking experiences with chefs located in Italy, Japan, Spain and the United States, and the hope is to eventually expand the company in order to include other countries. Most classes are hosted in the chef’s own home kitchen (no fancy professional equipment to be intimidated by) but some are done in locations that speak to the culture of the area. If you’re looking to improve your own cooking skills, want your kids to learn to cook in a cool, fun and interactive way, are in need of an experiential gift for Christmas, birthdays, a wedding, Mother’s Day or Father’s Day (they offer gift cards!), The Chef and The Dish offers a variety of classes that can be taken from the comforts of your own home. If you happen to be located in Toronto, you can also book a team-building or corporate events (hello, holiday party!) in their location.
As Jenn, who hails from upstate New York, says, ‘I have this theory that the further you get away from Buffalo the worse the chicken wings are. If you’re going to call something ‘something’ then you should know what the real version tastes like first.’ Thanks to The Chef and the Dish, learning to make those authentic dishes Jenn speaks of can easily be done… and you don’t even have to purchase airfare.
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